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Violence in Syria spills over into Lebanon
The U.S. expressed concern over the security situation in Lebanon.
“We welcome the commitment of the Lebanese government and the Lebanese Armed Forces to conduct a swift and transparent investigation of the shooting incident, and we call on all parties to exercise restraint and respect for Lebanon’s security and stability,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.
There is an array of die-hard pro-Syrian parties and politicians in Lebanon, as well as support for the regime on the street level.
But there is an equally deep hatred of Assad among other Lebanese who fear Damascus is still calling the shots here. The two sides are the legacy of Syria’s virtual rule over Lebanon from 1976 to 2005, when Syrian troops were driven out.
During the time of blatant Syrian dominance, Lebanese leaders used to travel frequently to Damascus to get marching orders.
Tensions between the two sides are high enough. But Syria opponents worry the regime may intentionally cause trouble.
The Lebanese army has promised to investigate the cleric’s killing. But both sides of the conflict are polarized. Regime opponents say Syria is trying to stir up trouble in Lebanon to deflect attention from the troubles at home, and to show that Assad is capable of destabilizing the region if threatened.
But the pro-Syrian factions say it’s not in their interest to see chaos in northern Lebanon, where rebels are trying to smuggle fighters and weapons into Syria. Assad has long said the revolt against him is the result of a foreign conspiracy.
Amid fears the situation might deteriorate, four Gulf countries — Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — have warned their citizens against travel to Lebanon. The warnings are a blow to Lebanon’s summer holiday season, a pillar of the economy.
The Supreme Islamic Legislative Council, the top Sunni religious body in Lebanon, described Abdul-Wahid’s killing as an “assassination crime par excellence” and urged self restraint. It also wants to refer the killing to the Judicial Council, which is charged with cases seen as destabilizing national security.
The Beirut clashes were among the most serious battles in the capital since May 2008, when Hezbollah gunmen swept through Sunni neighborhoods after the pro-Western government tried to dismantle the group’s telecommunications network. At the time, more than 80 people were killed in the violence, pushing Lebanon to the brink of civil war.
Inside Syria on Monday, activists said regime forces killed dozens of people Sunday in a raid on the central town of Soran in Hama province.
One activist group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, put the death toll at 39, citing a network of sources on the ground. Syria-based activist Mustafa Osso said the figure was more than 20. The death toll could not be independently confirmed.
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